Covid-depleted River to play match without keeper: report

·2-min read
Franco Armani is one of four River Plate goalkeepers to test positive for Covid-19

Argentine giants River Plate will have to play a Copa Libertadores match with an outfield player in goal after CONMEBOL rejected their request to call up youth team goalkeepers following an outbreak of coronavirus in the squad, local press said.

River are due to play Colombians Independiente Santa Fe in Buenos Aires on Wednesday evening but their squad has been hit by more than 20 coronavirus infections.

With all four goalkeepers listed in their official Libertadores squad -- Franco Armani, German Lux, Enrique Bologna and Franco Petroli -- infected by Covid-19, the four-time champions asked South American football's governing body if they could call up youngsters Alan Leonardo Diaz and Agustin Guzman.

But according to local press reports on Tuesday, CONMEBOL refused since River had only named 32 players instead of a possible 50-man list for the competition.

CONMEBOL rules state that as long as a team has at least seven fit players from its official squad list available, it must play the game.

River president Rodolfo D'Onofrio called the situation "ridiculous" but said the team would play to avoid further sanctions.

Coach Marcelo Gallardo only has 10 fit players, and no goalkeeper, available for the group stage match that could prove crucial to their hopes of making it to the knock-out rounds.

One of the defenders Jonatan Maidana, Milton Casco and Tomas Lecanda is expected to play in goal.

"It's a totally unusual situation, very strange, very difficult," said Argentina national team coach Lionel Scaloni, speaking to ESPN.

"It won't be easy to go out and play this game. Hopefully nothing happens and they will be able to finish the game and River will get a good result."

Santa Fe said they also have three players with Covid, but didn't reveal who.

Diaz played in goal in an Argentine League Cup defeat to arch-rivals Boca Juniors on Sunday when River were already without 15 players.

River currently sit second in Libertadores Group D, with Santa Fe bottom, with two games remaining but all four clubs have a chance of progressing to the knock-out phase.

Several online betting websites removed the game from their schedules.

Argentina is firmly mired in a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and recently recorded record new daily infections and deaths. It has registered 3.3 million infections and 71,700 fatalities amongst its 45 million population.

The country is also due to co-host the Copa America with Colombia starting on June 13.

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